Sound Bites

Album reviews

Posted: Thursday, November 27, 2008

Here's a sampling of recent holiday releases.

'The Johnny CashChristmas Specials 1976-1979'

About five years after his TV variety show on ABC ended in 1971, Johnny Cash added some red and green to his "Man in Black" persona as host of a yearly Christmas special of music and comedy on CBS.

Those specials from 1976 to 79 are now finally out on DVD, in a four-disc box set.

They show the late, great Cash, who died in 2003 at age 71, robust and as deep-voiced as ever, smiling and flanked by famous friends and his wife, June Carter Cash, who died four months before him. Though slathered in a light layer of cheese, the performances are undeniably entertaining.

Various Artists,'We Wish You A Metal Christmas'

You know what's been missing all along from Christmas: Motorhead's Lemmy growling out the words to "Run, Run Rudolph" and ending it with a very bad word as ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons lays down Texas chain saw guitar. Well, that's here, along with a collection of redone holiday classics by some of the biggest names in metal, including current or former members of Kiss, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Dokken, Quiet Riot, Rainbow, Ratt, and the David Lee Roth Band.

Sheryl Crow, 'Home for Christmas'

Sheryl Crow earns some "frequent listener" miles with her new holiday album, "Home for Christmas." Crow nails the seasonal thing down by applying her usual mix of styles. There's funk, soul, gospel and heaping doses of wholesome rock all blended nicely.

As a result, the record is every bit a Sheryl Crow album as it is a contribution of holiday songs. It's only available through Hallmark, but being that this is the season of greeting cards, you're bound to come across it numerous times.

Crow starts things off with a rootsy version of "Go Tell It On a Mountain," where she immediately conjures up images of her playing at a church social. From there she picks things up with a cheerful version of "The Christmas Song," replete with a bright horn section. Then she gets sultry with "White Christmas," and ends the album with the somber "All Through the Night."

Aretha Franklin,'This Christmas, Aretha'

Fifty years into her remarkable career, Aretha Franklin gives us "This Christmas, Aretha," her first-ever Christmas album.

Sold exclusively through Borders, the Queen of Soul tackles some holiday favorites. But don't expect to hear any of those catchy, cheery, numbers. Instead, on this 11-track collection, she opts for covering the more spiritual side of the season.

She begins with the classic, "Angels We Have Heard on High," and while it's clearly not as much fun as some of the season's ditties, it does leave you with a heaping dose of the spirit. That emotion carries on throughout the album as she merges modern covers with traditional favorites.

Franklin clearly set out to make a great record and not simply a Christmas album, and she definitely succeeded.

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